Today YouTube launched YouTube Copyright School, a program designed to educate users on the rules of copyright law and how to play by them.

Copyright SchoolCopyright School is part of YouTube’s on going effort—as with its Video Identification online rights management technology and other programs—to encourage copyright owners to use YouTube and, more importantly, to avoid costly legal battles.

The school employed the Happy Tree Friends gang from Mondo Media, in which Russell (a sea otter character who is, coincidentally, a pirate) learns some valuable lessons about copyright infringement. “You could be sued and found liable for monetary damages,” the videos’s narrator explains. “Or you could lose your YouTube account.”

YouTube employs a three strike rule, after which the user is “banned for life” from YouTube. Violations may also include mashups and remixes, depending on whether its defined as a “fair use.” More information is contained at the YouTube Copyright Center.

YouTube will require copyright violators to attend the school, which requires watching the copyright tutorial and passing a quiz to show that you’ve paid attention and understood the content before uploading more content to YouTube.

The creation of Copyright School is in fact a softening of the three strikes rule, in which accounts are automatically removed after three uncontested copyright notifications without any chance for appeal. Now YouTube will take a more flexible approach: “So, today we’ll begin removing copyright strikes from user’s accounts in certain limited circumstances, contingent upon the successful completion of YouTube Copyright School, as well as a solid demonstrated record of good behavior over time.”

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